The Ride
Jeffrey S. Callico

Jarvis Rogers was riding a roller coaster. He sat in the third car from the front, beside a girl he didn’t know, chugging up the tall incline toward the top of the first hill. The girl looked really scared and Jarvis noticed.

“You look really scared,” he told the girl, who looked to be in her early twenties. “Yeah,” she said, nodding. “I am.”

Jarvis chuckled. “First time on a coaster?”

“No, no,” said the girl, shaking her head wildly. “I been on these things over and over. I just don’t like the first hill and all. After that I’m pretty much fine.”

Down below, Jarvis could see the top of the platform where all the people stood waiting for the next roller coaster train to take them up the big hill. The sky was getting dark, and the lights of the park seemed to twinkle on one by one, but no one really noticed the succession.

“OK,” Jarvis shouted, “here we go!”

The girl screamed, her hands tight on the safety bar, her eyes closed and her neck muscles tense. She looked like she was about to be shot in the head.

As the huge link-chain took the train over the top and gravity took it down, Jarvis lifted his hands in the air and the girl screamed louder—so loud her voice was shrill in Jarvis’s left ear. Zooooooom! went the train, and then it shot back up a smaller second hill, swerved around a tight curve then shot back down again, all the while the girl screaming and gripping and tensing and keeping her eyes closed tightly.

Sooner than Jarvis always preferred, the ride ended. He and the girl got off and exited down the ramp which led back into the rest of the park.

He turned to the girl as she caught up with him. “I’m Jarvis,” he said. “Jarvis Rogers.”

The girl introduced herself as MaryAnn Purcell.

“Wanna go to the haunted house?” Jarvis offered.

The girl shook her head, again wildly. “Oh, no. Those things scare me bad.”

“Can’t be much worse than a roller coaster. At least you’re not going sixty miles an hour in a haunted house.”

“Well, all right, but you gotta stay right beside me.”

“OK,” Jarvis said, and off they went.

When they reached what was billed as THE HOUSE OF THE MACABRE, the girl latched onto Jarvis’s arm even before he gave the thin bearded man the tickets.

“I’m scared as hell,” the girl said, and Jarvis noticed she was shaking.

“It ain’t real,” he assured her. “There ain’t nothing in there gonna hurt you.”

Jarvis and the girl stepped in and were soon met by complete darkness. They couldn’t see an inch in front of their eyes.

“Let’s get out of here,” the girl whispered.

“Nah, c’mon, I think we gotta turn left.” Jarvis reached with his hand along the invisible wall and found a corner. “Here it is. Let’s go.”

“Jarvis,” said the girl, but only as a way to try and comfort herself.

Suddenly a buzzer sounded and a big red light flashed on and a green decapitated head popped up behind a screen. The girl grabbed Jarvis’s arm so tight that even he emitted a yell. But it wasn’t because of the head, just the pain he felt when she grabbed his arm.

They went on and on, through a maze of lurking dark corners, each time getting a jolt when something would light up, or a big sound exploded near their heads. As they turned the final corner, they both saw the light that came from the park outside.

Jarvis and the girl walked down the staircase and stopped a few feet from the haunted house.

“Wanna go in again?” Jarvis asked.

“No, no way. I ain’t goin’ in one of those for as long as I live,” said the girl.

Jarvis laughed and said, “Well, OK, let’s go get something to eat.”

They got some cotton candy and Cokes and took them to an empty bench and watched passersby, some of them pretty girls wearing not much more than bathing suits. Jarvis and the girl noticed all sorts of people walking past them, some of whom looked creepy.

Jarvis took a sip of Coke. “You know what? I’m pretty tired of this place. Wanna go somewhere else?”

“Where?” said the girl.

“I don’t know.”

The girl looked over at Jarvis. “You wanna go back to my place, don’t you.”

“Maybe,” Jarvis shrugged.

“Well, my daddy ain’t home, so I guess it’s all right.”

They took the rest of the cotton candy and went to the girl’s place, and all night long the girl lifted her arms in the air and yelled and yelled and yelled and yelled.


      “I love going to small-town county fairs. They’re a great source for material.”

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